A senior Iranian official has warned against efforts to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, describing his fate as a “red line” for the Islamic Republic. Ali Akbar Velayati, adviser to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on international affairs, said the fall of al-Assad will damage the resistance front against Israel.
“The main reason behind our focus on the Syrian issue is to prevent the fall of the resistance line against Israel. If Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, falls the resistance line against Israel will break up,” Velayati stated.However, he stressed that Tehran’s support for Assad does not mean that Iran is neglecting the Syrian nation’s right to choose their rulers. “We believe in the necessity of reforms in Syria based on the demands of the Syrian nation without recourse to violence and any [form of] US support,” Velayati said. “Certain reactionary states like Qatar supplied terrorists [in Syria] with arms, and with the aim of overthrowing Assad…recruited gunmen from Somalia and Afghanistan to commit massacres and this is an indication of foreign conspiracies.” Velayati stressed that nobody outside Syria is allowed to decide for Assad to stay or to leave. Earlier on Sunday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said any discussion of the removal of Assad in a future transitional government is “unacceptable.” He called on the “nationalistic opposition” groups to lay down their weapons and join talks to form a new government. Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of army and security personnel, have been killed in the turmoil. Damascus has repeatedly said that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and that a very large number of militants operating in the country are foreign nationals. According to a UN report, militants from 29 countries -- most of whom are extremist Salafists -- have infiltrated into Syria to fight against President al-Assad’s government. KA/HGH/SS